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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Reckless Spending Initiative Just Perpetuates California’s Dysfunction

By Martha Montelongo

The big “news” from Sacramento this week is that the state budget is in trouble again. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state is going to come up $4 billion short of revenue projections this year. Now, massive cuts are on the table, including lopping off a full week of the school year.

But this week’s news wasn’t surprising: anyone who’s paid any attention to California’s budget drama already knew the $4 billion wasn’t going to show up. The state Legislature needed to pass a budget to start collecting their paychecks again, so they conjured up an extra $4 billion in projected revenue at the last second to meet the virtually useless requirement that they pass a “'balanced” budget. The budget – and the magical $4 billion – was just the latest way to kick the can down the road and refusing to deal with our state’s biggest budget problem: wasteful spending.

Decades of reckless overspending have put California in the dire position it’s in today. A Politicians and bureaucrats have fed at the public trough for years and years, larding up the state’s budget with perks, entitlements and wasteful spending programs. Making things worse, special interests have duped voters into creating countless new programs and spending mandates through the initiative process. The special interests pitch voters on the benefits of programs like stem cell researchor high speed rail, while very intentionally the neglecting to mention the rampant spending and bureaucracy these measures lock in, or the impact on our ability to pay for existing critical programs like education or public safety.

The latest ballot measure boondoggle is the so-called California Cancer Research Act, a ballot measure that’s going before voters this June. This measure would raises taxes by nearly $1 billion a year, just to duplicate programs that already exist. What’s worse, it mandates a whole new bureaucracy that can spend $16 million a year on overhead and $117 million every year on new buildings and facilities. This spending continues year after year, regardless of whether California can afford it or not.

Even worse, this new massive spending program is overseen by a new bureaucracy run by political appointees. But that isn’t surprising either: the measure is being pushed by a longtime career politician who used to run the state Senate. Who could be surprised that former legislator was the one to come up with a new spending program run by political appointees?

But the massive spending and bureaucracy in this boondoggle ballot measure is just the tip of the iceberg. Though this measure requires Californians to pay billions of dollars in new taxes, it doesn’t actually require the money to be spent in California! Our state already suffers from the worst business climate and some of the highest unemployment and tax rates in the nation, and now we’re being asked to pay more just to ship that money out of state? Of all the asinine policy prescriptions for the state, shipping California’s money across state lines has to rank near the top.

This measure has all the trappings of other projects sold to voters as magical cures to myriad woes that quickly devolved into good old-fashioned California money pits. Like high-speed rail and stem-cell research – or even the measure created First 5 LA, there is virtually no accountability and no guarantees that the new spending program has to deliver results. The fact is that this measure is just like the state’s lottery, where voters may never really know how much of the money goes into actual research not bureaucracy.

Our state didn’t find itself in our budget crisis overnight. Rather, California’s newfound standing as America’s Greece is the result of one boondoggle spending program piled on top of another. Politicians, in the thrall of the myriad special interests that run Sacramento, are only too happy to raise your taxes and spend more of your money. The only solution is restore fiscal discipline and sanity so that the state can begin to extract itself from the mess it’s in. Saying no to the latest ballot measure boondoggle next June ballot and this measure is a good place to start.

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Botched Paramilitary Police Raids: An Epidemic of "Isolated Incidents"

"If a widespread pattern of [knock-and-announce] violations were shown . . . there would be reason for grave concern." —Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in Hudson v. Michigan, June 15, 2006. An interactive map of botched SWAT and paramilitary police raids, released in conjunction with the Cato policy paper "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids," by Radley Balko. What does this map mean? How to use this map View Original Map and Database

Key

Death of an innocent. Death or injury of a police officer. Death of a nonviolent offender.
Raid on an innocent suspect. Other examples of paramilitary police excess. Unnecessary raids on doctors and sick people.
The proliferation of SWAT teams, police militarization, and the Drug War have given rise to a dramatic increase in the number of "no-knock" or "quick-knock" raids on suspected drug offenders. Because these raids are often conducted based on tips from notoriously unreliable confidential informants, police sometimes conduct SWAT-style raids on the wrong home, or on the homes of nonviolent, misdemeanor drug users. Such highly-volatile, overly confrontational tactics are bad enough when no one is hurt -- it's difficult to imagine the terror an innocent suspect or family faces when a SWAT team mistakenly breaks down their door in the middle of the night. But even more disturbing are the number of times such "wrong door" raids unnecessarily lead to the injury or death of suspects, bystanders, and police officers. Defenders of SWAT teams and paramilitary tactics say such incidents are isolated and rare. The map above aims to refute that notion.

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